UN Withdraws Funding For Asiatic Cheetah Conservation Dooming The Species To Extinction

Sick Cheetah Cub Becomes Best Friends With Puppy

The UN has decided it will no longer fund conservation efforts to protect the Asiatic cheetah and experts are warning that species is on the brink of extinction. There are less than 50 wild Asiatic cheetahs left and all of them are in Iran. Conservationists are worried that unless immediate action is taken there is almost no chance that one of Earth’s most distinctive and graceful hunters will survive.

Hunted to extinction across Asia

Both the African and Asian cheetah are the fastest land animals on the planet and they use their speed to hunt antelope and other moderately large prey. The Asiatic cheetah used to roam across the entire continent but were hunted to extinction in India for sport and as farming became more widespread their habitat was destroyed, reducing their numbers even further during the 19th and 20th centuries. Ultimately the species was wiped out across all the countries it was native too, bar a few areas in Iran.

Human animal conflict

Conservationists have fought hard to maintain their population in these areas but face several hardships. There are a number of threats such as retaliatory killings by local sheep and goat herders who have lost animals to the cheetah. Farmers use dogs to hunt the big cat or use traps. Aside from this the Asiatic cheetah roam over wide areas of Iran often crossing highways where they are killed after being run over by cars. Many have been killed despite signs being posted along highways warning motorists of the risk.

Numbers continue to decline

Over the last few years a number of measures have been introduced in order to raise awareness of the plight of the species. Unfortunately, their numbers have continued to decline. There used to be three main protected areas where Asiatic cheetahs could be found, now there are none left in the Western area of Kavir whilst in the Southern region of Iran not enough cheetahs exist to meet and breed. It is only in the Northern part of Iran where numbers are high enough for a breeding population to remain.

Iran cannot fund conservation because of sanctions

The government of Iran is keen to protect the species but it has been extremely difficult because the country has faced economic sanctions since the 1980’s and this means international agencies have experienced lots of problems sending money to the country. The money is there to provide some protection, unfortunately it cannot be used for conservation. To add to the species woes, the Iranian government has had to cut the budget of the its environment department which is responsible for the protection of the species. The UN has the ability to fund the cheetah conservation project because its development program (UNDP) is able to get money into the country relatively easily and that aid was critical.

UNDP decision puzzling

Unfortunately, that support no longer exists because the UNDP has decided it has had to make major cuts to its own budget and the agency announced that it would not be continuing to support the Asiatic cheetah conservation from this year onwards. This means that Iran now has sole responsibility for funding cheetah conservation programs. The decision is a little controversial because the UNDP has spent less than US$800,000 on the project over the last few years which is a pittance compared to the overall budget.

Without funding there is no hope

Conservationists are warning that without the support of the UNDP there is almost no hope for the survival of the Asiatic cheetah. Conservation efforts will totally depend on funding by the Iranian government’s department of environment which has already declared the species doomed. Conservationists are arguing that as much support as possible must be provided to Iran because it is the only country where the Asiatic species has managed to survive. The warning is stark. Unless something is done within the next couple of years, the species will become extinct. Right now, it is five minutes to midnight for the Asiatic cheetah and very soon it will be the end.

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